Probiotics: Myth or miracle? What we should know about these friendly bacteria
There are some things to note about probiotics, however, to reap the most benefits.
One main consideration is whether the probiotics are still alive, and if so, how many microbes there are in the food item, according to William Chen, the director of Nanyang Technological University’s Food Science and Technology Programme.
To be labelled “probiotic”, noted the professor, the food item must contain at least a billion CFUs, or colony forming units, which represent the number of bacteria in each serving.
But a probiotic product can lose potency if it is not stored properly or sits on the shelf for too long.
“Ideally, the lower the temperature, the better,” he said. “Bacteria grow more slowly at a lower temperature, but faster at a high temperature.”
The CFU number on the label is typically the number at the date of packaging, he added. But the company will not be monitoring how long a product was on the shelf before it was bought.
So “no one knows” how many microbes is taken in at the time of consumption, said Chen, who advised paying attention to the expiry date. “Don’t buy too much and then put (the food) in the fridge for too long.”
As for the type of foods to eat, in general, fermented foods are good for gut health because they are easier to digest, according to Jeremy Lim, chief executive officer of precision gut microbiome company Amili.
The fermentation process also allows probiotics to multiply.
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